GREE unwraps its first North American title, Zombie Jombie


By Kathleen De Vere Comment

GREE has unveiled Zombie Jombie, the first game from its San Francisco studio. It’s a Japanese-style card battle game designed from the ground up to appeal to North American audiences.

Prior to launch, GREE beta tested the game in the Canadian App Store. We first noticed Zombie Jombie about two weeks ago, when it started to sporadically appear on the Canadian charts. During this period, the game reached No. 63 on the Canadian top grossing apps list.

Zombie Jombie challenges players to lead an army of zombies as they take over the U.S. one city at a time. In order to do so, players must amass a collection of zombie cards, which can be found through gameplay, earned through trades with other players, or obtained by opening chests.

The chests are the game’s gacha mechanic, a staple of Japanese card battle games. The term gacha refers to a mechanism where players can pay a small amount of money to get a random return, similar to a toy vending machine. The mechanic can be extremely profitable — some Japanese developers have reported half of their overall sales come from gacha. In Zombie Jombie players get one free chest per day, but can purchase additional premium chests that promise better rewards.

According Eiji Araki, GREE’s senior vice president of social games, Zombie Jombie reflects a marriage of the Eastern and Western styles of game development. The team was lead by Japanese producer, but used an American art director and writer. GREE also invested a significant amount of resources in adjusting the game’s presentation during beta — efforts Araki believes led to the game’s pre-launch success on the Canadian top grossing list.

“We [ran] marketing campaigns prior to the Canadian launch [to help] us to formulate an overall marketing effort,” says Araki. “Based on that strategy, we did do some media buying but we have definitely seen that organic lift as well. It has been a great mix of both. That being said, we are constantly reviewing and revising our strategy to make sure it is most effective and reaching the right players.”

Although games like Zombie Jombie are extremely popular (and profitable) in Japan, it’s an interesting move for GREE to make its North American debut with a card battle game, as the format is largely untested here. However, GREE’s senior vice president of marketing and developer relations Eros Resmini believes the game will resonate with Western audiences because Zombie Jombie includes many of the same mechanics as collectible card games, which are popular in North America.

“If you look a Western version [collectible card game] like Magic the Gathering, it has a very strong, passionate audience here in the west. It’s a very closely related game style to card battle,” Resmini explains. “I do think there’s an audience in the west that likes this style of game, and its really just about capturing what gets people excited about Magic the Gathering and bringing it to mobile.”

Zombie Jombie is out today in the iTunes App Store. GREE’s upcoming global platform will be making its debut in Q2.